Blu-ray Highlights for 3/6/12 – Ni!

“Winter is coming,” goes an oft-repeated phrase in one of last year’s most popular TV shows. Judging by that snowstorm we had in Boston last week, winter is unmistakably already here. It’s a good thing, then, that this week’s Blu-ray lineup is ready to heat things up.

In great contrast to last week’s slowdown, we have quite a lot of interesting stuff to look at today.


I’ll start with the TV slate, because that’s where we’ll find the most exciting title of the week. HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones‘ was one of the best new shows to premiere last year. This is a series that begs for a quality high-definition presentation to show off all the detail in the production design, costumes and visual effects. The storyline is also so rich and complex that it demands repeat viewings. I’ve greatly cut back on the number of TV shows that I buy on DVD or Blu-ray these days, but this one will easily earn a spot on my shelf.

Aaron says that the animated ‘Transformers Prime‘ series is much better and more entertaining than he anticipated. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray box set’s video quality leaves something to be desired. Follow the link above to his review for more details.

Agatha Christie fans may enjoy the third season of ‘Poirot‘, starring David Suchet as the eccentric mustachioed detective. These episodes date from 1991 and are claimed to be presented in the original UK broadcast order. The first two seasons were previously released in January of this year, and the fourth is scheduled for next month. Suchet is still making these things. A thirteenth season (which will complete all of Christie’s stories for the character) is in production now.

New Releases

The assortment of recent theatrical titles is, as usual, the least interesting section of today’s release slate. Between the unneeded and unwanted remake of ‘Footloose‘, the ‘300’ clone ‘Immortals‘ (yours in 2D or lousy post-converted 3D) and Adam Sandler’s latest expression of contempt for his audience (that would be ‘Jack and Jill‘, of course), this is a pretty sad state of affairs.

All is not lost, however. We also have a couple of titles that built up some buzz on last year’s film festival circuit. Pedro Almodóvar’s horror-tinged thriller ‘The Skin I Live In‘ sounds pretty fascinating. I’ll give anything by Almodóvar a shot. The romantic drama ‘Like Crazy‘ (starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones) was a hit at Sundance but didn’t make much traction in regular release. I’m a little more skeptical of this one, but the reviews were mostly favorable.


The hysterical comedy ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail‘ was an extremely low-budget, shoddily produced affair that has had a history of looking really lousy on home video. Although this may not seem like an ideal candidate for Blu-ray, the technicians at Sony have reportedly worked some magic to extract never-before-visible detail and clean the movie up into a very presentable state, without losing that original grainy texture. I look forward to seeing the results.

Universal continues its 100th Anniversary celebration with new Blu-ray editions of ‘The Deer Hunter‘ (finally ported over from HD DVD), James Stewart’s imaginary-talking-rabbit comedy ‘Harvey‘, and a newly remastered version of ‘Out of Africa‘. That last one is no doubt intended as an apology for the studio’s shamefully poor treatment of the film on its original Blu-ray release. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there’s no exchange program available for owners of the old disc, but there really should be.

This is a good year for Alfred Hitchcock on Blu-ray. This week, Paramount offers up the director’s lighthearted caper ‘To Catch a Thief‘, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

Cult classics get some attention today as well. Legend Films gives us high-def editions of Roger Corman’s original (non-musical) ‘Little Shop of Horrors‘, as well as the greatest bad movie ever made, Ed Wood’s legendary ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space‘.

Family Flicks

If you have kids that you need to keep entertained while you take care of adult business, your choices this week range from the cutesy schmaltz of ‘Benji‘, to Eddie Murphy’s obnoxious mugging antics in ‘The Nutty Professor‘, to the ‘tweener mermaid fantasy ‘Aquamarine‘. For undemanding children who prefer middle-of-the-road animation, you might try the preachy “Save the Rainforest” message of ‘Ferngully‘ or some of the forgettable ‘Lion King‘ DTV sequels.

A little more promising is the Kirk Douglas family-friendly Western ‘The Man from Snowy River‘. Bizarrely, the film was shot in Australia by a director named George Miller, but not by the George Miller, famed Australian director of the ‘Mad Max’ trilogy. This George Miller hails from the UK, and later went on to helm family films such as ‘Andre’ and ‘Zeus and Roxanne’.

Parenthood‘ is one of the few Ron Howard movies that I can tolerate. That’s not to say that it’s a great film, but the Steve Martin comedy is a perfectly pleasant and amusing two hours. I’m not sure that it really needed to spawn two separate TV spin-offs, but the one currently on the air isn’t half bad either.


Poor John Frankenheimer made a number of great movies in his career, including ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, ‘Grand Prix’ and ‘Black Sunday’, yet he unfortunately went out with a couple of turkeys like ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ and the crappy Ben Affleck thriller ‘Reindeer Games‘. The Director’s Cut of the latter may be marginally better than the theatrical cut, but I doubt that’s enough to make anyone care.

Remember when we were led to believe that Ryan Phillippe was a movie star? While he still gets work, the actor’s days of headlining films appear to be over. Mediocre pictures like the disco drama ‘54‘ are probably the reason why. This movie is also memorable for being one of Mike Myers’ few attempts to play a non-comedic role.

Which of this week’s titles do you plan to pick up?


  1. HuskerGuy

    I only need GoT. Well, that and two other catalogue releases (not new releases though).

    Spending too much money on gaming today.

  2. Oh, wow, I can thoroughly recommend “Serge Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life” to everyone! It’s not a straight biopic (not by a longshot), but rather a fantasy/poetic approach to the late French singer’s life. Eric Elmosnino is brilliant in the title role and Doug Jones (yes, THE Doug Jones) portrays a hilarious alter ego of Serge called “La Gueule” (which roughly translates as “his mug” … as in “face”, not the cup in which you put coffee)

  3. Well, at least Avatar is finally coming to Blu Ray!! It took it’s time, even if they have renamed it to something about gullies…

    Not a lot I’m fussed about in this latest lineup, unfortunately. Except Holy Grail, but I’ve got the old SE DVD so I may just wait for it to come down.

    Could be tempted by Plan 9 though… 😉

  4. EM

    I have Holy Grail and Plan 9 on preorder. I, too, have been skeptical about Wholly Grain (ahem) on Blu, but I let some pre-release reviews convince me. Plan 9, on the other hand, has been one of my Blu-ray holy grails. I hope both do my anticipation justice.

  5. I have had Monty Python preordered for over a year, and so excited to get it today. Yeah, the previous HV releases were crap (although the DVD was night and day better than what was available before that, but it still left a lot to be desired).

    I also picked up Parenthood. I can finally retire my old VHS of this. $12 was just a really good price, and its a childhood movie that I just absolutely love.

    I haven’t had much intrest in Immortals, but its in 3D, so that is enough for me to give it a shot.

    Lastly, I may pick up Lion King 1 1/2. I picked up the first one in 3D on an Amazon sale, and Lion King 2 absolutely sucked, but 1 1/2 was just a fun movie. If I can find it for a good price, I will pick it up. Its a fun movie, but its certainly not worth what Disney usually charges for their discs.

    As for Ferngully amd Benji, I got them on Laserdisc. I picked them up in an ebay lot sale. While I am sure Ferngully will look beautiful on Blu-Ray, the movie just isn’t that good. If the kids want to see it (that is, I don’t have kids, but all my friends do, and I watch them from time to time), my laserdisc player still works.

  6. JM

    Is Universal’s transfer of ‘The Deer Hunter‘ better than ‘Jurassic Park’?

    ‘Game Of Thrones’ might be my first blind buy in years.

    My affection for Tarsem Singh cannot be contained. ‘Immortals‘ is my must-rent experiment of the week.

    If I remember correctly, Luke said Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘The Skin I Live In‘ is brilliant, and I’ve been anticipating this forever.

    ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s video transfer I read is spectacular, and this is practically the cornerstone of my childhood.

    • Ian Whitcombe

      You love Tarsem, yet Immortals only qualifies as a “must rent”. What an endorsement!

    • I am really pleased with the transfer on Holy Grail. The opening scene is pretty bad, because you have an extreamely grainy film-stock that there is rolling fog on, which just spells disaster for digital compression. However, the rest of the movie looks spectacular. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to look this good, and not for a discount title. I am also impressed with the new special features – while the majority were imported over from the DVD, there are some new ones, which just floored me considering this was a $12 disc. I must say that I am impressed.